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In the 13th Age core book it explains clearly that as the GM you can give out true magic items when a PC rolls a 5 or 6 on an icon relationship story-guide roll (the roll at the beginning of the session).

I haven't seen any other time it specifies the PCs should be receiving true magic items; are they only given out as a result of the story-guide rolls?

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Absolutely not, and in fact, I'd caution you to not use true magic items as your go-to solution for an icon relationship. It's okay to use them occasionally, but as page 191 of the core rulebook explains, the game functions better when your players are hungry for magic items rather than when they are satiated.

We prefer it when characters are hungry for more magic rather than feeling like they are close to full. We suggest that the optimal number of magic items for a character is somewhere between half the character’s level and the character’s level. If there’s 50% to 75% chance that a character gains a new magic item over the course of a full level, that’s good by us.

That being said, there's nothing wrong with giving a player a true magic item as a manifestation of their icon benefit. I especially like doing so for 5's, rather than 6's, because it gives you cause to make the character earn the item as the result of an accomplishment, rather than "hey, I like you, here's a Cool Sword".

The game recommends a player receive a true magic item at most once over the course of a level, which is about once every twelve to sixteen fights, give or take (see page 189 of the core rulebook). There's room for a solid amount of adventures there. Characters will find ways to perform feats of heroism, take down major foes, and make bargains with powerful entities. Icon benefit or no, there's definitely room to reward these acts with a true magic item.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! If you have time you can take the tour to find out more about the site. I am personally unfamiliar with this RPG system so I may not significantly comment on the contents of the answer (looking good at a glance though). That said, you mention some passages from the core rulebook which you could add as quotes to support your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jun 5 '18 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ If for some reason not quotes, simple citations are also helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jun 5 '18 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason I ask is actually because of those figures. Right now in the game I'm running there are currently 3 PCs who are Level 2. By that metric they should all have at least one, perhaps more for some. But so far the beginning of the session rolls just haven't played out that way. That's the reason I ask, because they say how it should shake out but then the only method they say to use to give the items out is based on very swingy dice rolls. \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Wawalrus Jun 5 '18 at 21:25

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